With Mike Conley and Marc Gasol both drawing difficult individual matchups on Sunday, Zach Randolph should be expected to pick up some of the team’s offensive slack against the Jazz. Check out daily fantasy expert Ricky Sanders’ recommended plays to help you fill out your roster for today’s NBA contests.
James Harden, Rockets – Over the course of the last two seasons, James Harden has produced 71.75, 70.5 and 60.0 fantasy points in three matchups respectively against the Raptors. In each of those contests, Harden has scored at least 29 points (PTS), grabbed at least five rebounds (REB) and dished out at least 13 assists (AST). Part of the reason for Harden’s success has been the fact these contests have turned into track meets; the final score of the matchups have been 113-107, 112-109 and 115-102, meaning there has been a total of at least 220 points in each meeting. Even though the Raptors rank 20th in pace, the Rockets rank fourth and clearly have been able to play their style each and every time during this span. Considering Harden has made the transition to the PG position, the matchup is actually more enticing against the Raptors because they rank first in defensive efficiency versus opposing SGs but 13th against PGs. In this case, the previous data tells the story and the Rockets/Raptors game is above and beyond the most fantasy friendly of tonight’s five game slate. If spending up on one player, make sure it is Harden.
DeMar DeRozan, Raptors – On the other side of the ball, DeMar DeRozan presents the best play on the Raptors for a variety of reasons. For one, an uptick in pace can only mean more shots headed his way and more volume equates to potential for a higher fantasy ceiling. Secondly, Patrick Beverley is one of the game’s better defenders and he will draw the matchup against Kyle Lowry. If he makes life difficult for Lowry, the surrounding pieces will have to pick up the slack. Of course, the likeliest candidate to make up for a less efficient Lowry performance is the team’s leader in usage percentage (USG%): DeRozan. After taking 17.7 shots per game last year, DeRozan is attempting 21.2 this season which has led to a career-high 27.4 points per game (PPG). In a fast tempo game, look for DeRozan to flirt with 30 real points as he puts the offense on his back.
Evan Fournier, Magic – Assuming the Magic roll with the same starting lineup on Sunday (Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo), Evan Fournier is firmly in play once again. With Nikola Vucevic coming off the bench, the starting unit features a center who is opposed to shooting and pass-first PG. Therefore, Fournier is able to eat up the usage on this unit and it showed on Friday as he took 13 shots and attempted three free throws in 35 minutes. Unfortunately, he only made four of those shots and two of the free throws but it was his second game in about a week and a half (and first with this starting unit in quite some time) so he gets a pass. On Sunday, the team will square off against a Lakers team that ranks 24th in SG efficiency defense and ranks fifth in pace. In other words, Fournier should see some added opportunities against a subpar defensive scheme against his position. In this setup, it would take another 30-percent shooting performance for Fournier to not at least approach value.
Kevin Love, Cavaliers – Prior to playing on Friday, Kevin Love had been dealing with food poisoning from eating airline sea bass. Seriously, you just cannot make this stuff up. Due to the illness, Love lost 10 lbs so his reasonably mediocre game against the Nets was not incredibly surprising (17 PTS on 31.3-percent shooting and 13 REB). With a few extra days to recover, Love should look closer to his typical form this year in which he is averaging 21.7 points per game (PPG) on 44.3-percent shooting, 11.0 rebounds per game (RPG) and 1.0 steals per game (SPG)…especially against the Suns. Only seven teams rank below the Suns in terms of overall defensive efficiency this season and the team also ranks 20th in efficiency against opposing PFs specifically. Diving deeper into the numbers, PFs have actually shot 47.2-percent from the field against the Suns which is the seventh worst FG percentage allowed to the position by any team. Additionally, they have fared pretty well against opposing SFs (LeBron James) so more of the offense will potentially have to run through Love. With the game being played on the road, there is less potential for a blowout and a greater probability Love plays deeper into the game. Now at least three days removed from his food poisoning incident, Love should be safe to re-insert back into fantasy rosters.
Nikola Vucevic, Magic – Despite the addition of Timofey Mozgov in the offseason, the Lakers till rank 26th in defensive efficiency against opposing Cs this season. He was brought in for defensive purposes and yet Cs have shot field goals at a 54.8-percent rate against them. To be fair, Thomas Robinson actually ranks first on the team with a 107 defensive rating and third on the team in defensive box plus/minus so the defense against centers off the bench has actually been superior. Regardless, Robinson should not scare owners away from rostering Nikola Vucevic who has topped 40 fantasy points in three of his last five games. If it were not for Vucevic shooting 4-15 from the field last game, he would have had a shot at 40-plus fantasy points in that game as well. Subtly, Vucevic has been improving upon his season USG% playing off the bench as his season total sits at 24.4-percent but he has been at 25.5-percent over the course of the last five games. As if that were not enough, his minutes have been on the rise as well as he has averaged 29.9 minutes per game (MPG) this month after averaging 27.4 MPG in November and 27.9 in December. Once again, Vucevic is underpriced so roll him out against a fast-paced opponent because his arrow is on the rise.
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies – In the team’s win against the Warriors in Oracle Arena just a few nights ago, Coach David Fizdale rolled with the old school combination of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the frontcourt down the stretch. Lately, Randolph had not been closing alongside Gasol but that trend ended with an incredibly positive result to legitimize the decision. Coming off the bench has actually helped increase his USG% because he is playing alongside the likes of Andrew Harrison and Jarell Martin instead of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Sure the minutes have been slightly down but his efficiency in terms of fantasy production has been way up as of late (1.2 fantasy points per minute over the course of his last five games). Whether or not the recent rotation shakeup continues is irrelevant against the Jazz because Gasol will face a tough matchup against Rudy Gobert and the Jazz rank third in PG efficiency defense as well. If Conley and Gasol struggle to produce, Randolph can certainly be relied upon on the second unit against the likes of Trey Lyles and/or whomever else they throw at him not named Gobert. Randolph has topped 30 fantasy points in each of his last three meetings against the Jazz because the offense has absolutely needed him and that trend should not be expected to this change this go-around either.